Meet Larry Bailey, Winner of the French Market Bartender & Waiters Race

Working in the hospitality industry isn’t just a job – it’s a career. During Bastille Day festivities held each year in New Orleans, the city takes a moment to recognize the waiters and bartenders who take good care of locals and visitors at restaurants throughout the city. The sixth annual French Market Bartender and Waiters Race pitted restaurant workers against each other in a friendly competition.

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Larry Bailey after his win. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

This year, about thirty waiters and bartenders speed-walked down four blocks of the French Quarter as they carried drinks and beignets. After three heats and a fourth and final race, Larry Bailey of Red Fish Grill won. We spoke with Bailey about his recent win and, more importantly, what it means to work in the hospitality industry in New Orleans. With more than 15 years of experience as a waiter, this was actually the first time Bailey participated in the race. “The first of many years now,” he clarified, laughing, in a recent video.

Learn more about Bailey in our interview below.

How long have you lived in New Orleans?

All my life (33 years). 

You’re the first place winner of the 2015 French Market Bartender and Waiters Race. What inspired you to participate?

My coworkers told me to enter; they said I had a good chance of winning. Plus, I’m a competitive guy – I like the challenge.

Tell us how your success in the race relates to your daily successes with your clientele at Red Fish Grill.

Well, in this business, you have to be quick and consistent, and that’s basically what the [French Market Bartender and Waiters] race is all about. Speed and consistency. 

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The sixth annual Bartender & Waiters Race. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Tell us about the work that you do at Red Fish Grill.

I’m a server and server assistant. I’m a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak! I can wait tables, run food, entertain guests, or even cook if need be. I’m a people person, so I prefer to be out front with the guests.

 What made you choose a career path in the tourism industry?

Like I said before, I am a people person. I love to interact with new people. I’ve learned a lot about different places by meeting different tourists every day.

If you were to share a message with New Orleans about choosing a positive life path, perhaps in the tourism industry, what would it be?

There are so many benefits to working in the hospitality industry. You get to meet interesting people, and if you are truly dedicated to this craft and don’t look at it as just another job, you develop a certain passion for the business. Once you get to that point, I promise that you can really make a decent living working in this industry.

With your daily job tasks in mind, what has serving locals and visitors in New Orleans taught you?

Making people happy makes me happy. It feels good knowing that God has given me the ability to make someone smile, even when they’re having a bad day.

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Bailey, center, and the runner-up, left, from Pat O’Brien’s. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

What do you love most about this city?

The city’s resiliency to bounce back from adversity. We’ve had some serious bumps in the road, but we just get back up and keep it moving.

What do you think New Orleans would look like without tourism?  

A ghost town. New Orleans is tourism.


Continue to be a great place for tourists to visit because of our diversity, attractions, music, food, and Southern Hospitality.